Can something as seemingly arbitrary as a person’s dominant hand influence his or her judgment?

People come in different shapes and sizes, which led cognitive scientist Daniel Casasanto to develop what he calls a “body-specificity hypothesis.” Through a series of experiments, Casasanto and fellow researchers found that people generally prefer things they find on the same side as their dominant hand:

“When participants were asked which of two products to buy, which of two job applicants to hire, or which of two alien creatures looked more trustworthy, right-handers routinely chose the product, person, or creature they saw on the right side of the page, while left-handers preferred the one on the left. These kinds of preferences have been found in children as young as 5 years old.”

Cassanto said the reason for this preference is fluency.

“People like things better when they are easier to perceive and interact with,” he said. “Right-handers interact with their environment more easily on the right than on the left, so they come to associate ‘good’ with ‘right’ and ‘bad’ with ‘left.’”

However, these associations can change. For example, Cassanto said, when a right-handed person has their dominant hand permanently disabled, they begin to associate the left hand with being “good.”

“After a few minutes of fumbling with their right hand, righties start to think like lefties,” he said. “If you change people’s bodies, you change their minds.”

However, Cassanto adds, “Since about 90 percent of the population is right-handed, people who want to attract customers, sell products, or get votes should consider that the right side of a page or a computer screen might be the ‘right’ place to be.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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